This trip takes in three fantastic destinations in under 3 weeks! First you'll experience the cool and eclectic city of San Francisco; visit the infamous prison of Alcatraz and wander through Union Square.
Next, head to New Zealand for a 5-day self-drive in the 'Winterless North' of New Zealand including the beautiful Bay of Islands. Finally - head to the glorious sunshine for a week in the South Pacific, visiting both Rarotonga & Aitutaki during your week in the Cook Islands. Spend the days relaxing on idyllic beaches, snorkelling in crystal clear seas and lagoons and learning about the culture of this captivating country.
On arrival you'll be greeted and transferred to your hotel. Check-in, and after a quick refresh, take the rest of the day at your leisure, stroll the streets, or dine on the wharf.
Today is yours to explore the city. San Francisco is known for its cool and quirky vibe and iconic landmarks such as the Golden Gate Bridge.
Wander through Union Square and grab a coffee whilst people-watching, visit Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Fishermans Wharf and make sure to take a walk to China Town, the largest Chinatown outside of Asia!
After breakfast, you’ll join your day tour of the city. Loop your way around the winding streets and pathways of San Francisco, exploring the natural and architectural beauty of this laidback city.
Later in the day head to Pier 33 and board your ferry to Alcatraz Island. Enjoy the 45 minute audio tour that escorts you passed the halls and cell blocks of the prison. Real inmates from Alcatraz’s glory days whisper rumours and stories into your ear as you stroll down the historic halls. Peering through the barred windows back to the city on the bay will have you questioning what life was really like for these inmates.
Today you'll be collected from your accommodation and transferred onto your flight.
On arrival, pick up your rental vehicle and head to your accommodation, with the rest of the day free.
Auckland’s blend of islands, Polynesian culture, glistening harbours and modern city environment creates an unbelievable lifestyle ranked amongst the best in the world.
After breakfast, depart Auckland and make your way north via the Waipoua Forest to the Hokianga Harbour. Located at the mouth of the harbour Omapere and its twin settlement Opononi offer steep farmland and bush whereas the northern shore has great drifts of golden sand dunes to explore. Enjoy the rest of the day at leisure.
After breakfast at the hotel you will head north to Russell today. Travel via Ahipara, Cape Reinga and Doubtless Bay and make a full days adventure out of your journey, travel back down the east coast to the historic town of Russell.
Russell was the country's first sea port, it's first European settlement and New Zealands's first capital. These days the town is a great place to base yourself to explore the Bay of Islands, with plenty of shops, restaurants and cafes Russell is a popular spot for visitors to the north of New Zealand
Before leaving Russell today you will join a ‘Hole in the Rock’ Dolphin cruise – pass Cape Brett Lighthouse spotting whales and dolphins as you go, before reaching the Hole in the Rock. Hold your breath as the skipper navigates the small space and you can admire the rock walls soaring above. On your way back stop at Urupukapuka Island before reaching the wharf at 1pm.
Head off this afternoon to Whangarei – make sure you stop at Kawakawa to view the remarkable public toilets by the late Austrian artist and architect (and resident) Frederick Hundertwasser.
Enjoy a wander quay-side and explore the local farmers markets before heading back towards Auckland via Goat Island Marine Reserve. Swim, snorkel, dive or even take a glass bottomed boat to discover the abundant marine life just off the beach. Picnic at a beautiful spot at the end of the coastal walk before heading back to Auckland where your Northland adventure comes to a close and you drop your car hire off at the airport.
Board your flight for Rarotonga in the Cook Islands.
(Approx. 220kms/3 hrs driving)
You'll be greeted at the airport in Rarotonga with a flower ei (necklace) to the sounds of Papa Jake on his ukulele.
Your transfer will take you to your accommodation, where you'll be checking in for the next 4 nights.
It’s time to sit back, relax and let your clock run to island time! The Cook Islanders are friendly folk – you’ll never be far from a smile.
The main town of Avarua is home to the island’s weekly market so if you are in town on a Saturday, make sure you get up early to experience it (from 7.30am-midday). The buses run all day every day, in two directions – clockwise or anti-clockwise – so you won’t get lost! Black pearls are famous here so see if you can pick up a bargain at one of the islands lovely pearl shops.
If shopping isn’t your thing how about hiring a small car, moped or even a bicycle to do a loop on the main road around the island?
There are plenty of lovely beaches to stop at – some better for swimming, others better for snorkelling. The Aroa Lagoon Marine Reserve is protected and you can even do a practice dive if you’re not qualified! If you fancy a bit more action you can go kite surfing, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, or open water diving – plenty of options to keep water babies entertained.
There are several different ‘Island nights’ that occur too – these are a great way to experience the Polynesian culture through food, dance and music. Let us know if you would like us to include one in your trip!
It’s up to you how you want to spend today – but if you’ve had enough of the beach then why not join ‘Pa’ on one of his nature or cross island walks? A total character, Pa is famous in the Cooks for his beliefs in natural medicine. He can walk you around some of the interior forest and offer remedies to any ailment (rub chilli on a bite for example!) or he can take you on the cross island walk where you'll get spectacular views of the island from its peak and enjoy a swim in the cool waters of Wigmores Waterfall.
After breakfast you'll be transferred back to Rarotonga Airport for the short hop to Aitutaki (it’s just 45 minutes) – once you’ve landed in paradise you'll be met and transferred to your accommodation, where you’ll check-in for 3 nights.
The Aitutaki lagoon will be the highlight of your stay. We’ve included a lagoon cruise for you today and with any luck you’ll see George the resident turtle bobbing about at some point!
As well as stopping at snorkel sites around the lagoon you'll have a BBQ lunch and stop at two islets. Onefoot Island even gives passport stamps, and is proudly home to the only post office in the world based on an uninhabited island.
For your final day, drink it all in; the laid back lifestyle and the sparkling ocean, the lack of wifi and contact with the outside world – it’s a memory you'll surely treasure for years to come!
After checking out you'll fly back to Rarotonga for your onward flight today. If you’re not leaving until the evening your hotel will be able to offer a late check-out (at a supplement).
New Zealand is a year-round destination and there is always something to see and enjoy whatever time you decide to travel. High season runs from December to February (summer), prices will be at a premium at these times and availability limited so it is advisable to book in advance. March to April and September to November can be a great time to travel as the weather is fine and the crowds fewer. Low season is May to August (winter) for most of New Zealand, this is however the best time for skiing and so ski towns such as Queenstown will be at their busiest.
The Cook Islands are a great year round destination with temperatures ranging between 18c and 28c in the winter (October to May) and 21c to 29c in the summer (November to April). The Cooks has a pleasantly even climate year round with no real weather excesses, although it can rain often thanks to its high inland mountains. The best time of year to visit is around September/October when you will find warm temperatures and low humidity, also March/April when the weather is generally fine and sunny.
This itinerary is purely a suggestion, and can be tailor-made to your requirements, so please contact us with your dates and requests and we’ll put together a bespoke quotation for you.
*Due to crossing of the International Dateline, this holiday spans 17 days however the itinerary lasts for 19 days*